John Mercer, tireless worker for the preservation of the heritage of the London Borough of Bexley, local historian, churchman, author, teacher, historian and family man, has died at the age of 92.
A Normandy veteran, he served in the Royal Artillery 1942-1947, and was among the first troops to enter Berlin at the end of the war. He wrote about his military experiences in two of his books, ‘Mike Target’ and ‘Letters from Normandy’.
After the war he became a teacher. He came to Sidcup in 1957, teaching at Hurstmere School. In 1968 he became a lecturer at North London Polytechnic (now London Metropolitan University), and the
same year became a Lay Reader at the Church of St John the Evangelist, Sidcup. He remained a Lay Reader until 2000 but continued to work for the church until his death, and supported numerous
charities, including, CRIBS (Christian Resources in Bexley Schools) and Evergreen Care Bexley. He continued his lifelong studying and in 1971 gained his PhD.
He joined Bexley Civic Society in the late 1970s. He was active in preserving Danson Stables and later Danson House, and campaigned tirelessly to save Manor House in Sidcup. He was later Chairman of the Bexley Civic Society and served on its Planning and Conservation Committee for the rest of his life. He also served on the committee of Bexley Arts Council. He was at various times Chairman of Sidcup U3A and Sidcup Probus Club, and Governor of Birkbeck School. He was a founder member of the Friends of Red House in 1998 and a guide there since that date. He gave the last of his many lectures this year. In 2010 the Mayor of Bexley Borough presented him with a certificate in ‘Recognition of Voluntary Service’.
A member of Lamorbey and Sidcup Local History Society since 1960, he was latterly a Vice President. He organised weekends on behalf of several members of the Lamorbey and Sidcup Local History Society to the Norfolk Broads. “After arrival at our base and the necessary cup of tea, we would all take a walk along the river to re-acquaint ourselves with the area before going off to a country pub for dinner - our one luxury. We would have a contest as to who would be the first to spot the swallow tailed butterfly native to the Broads - usually it was John. On our various excursions over the weekend we would admire the beautiful houses in the area and would choose the one we would like to buy if ever we made our fortunes! They were happy days and we all had such great fun.”
He wrote several books on local history: The Sidcup Story; Sidcup: a Pictorial History; Bexley, Bexleyheath and Welling; London Borough of Bexley in Photographs; Chislehurst and Sidcup; andSidcup and Foots Cray: a history, the last written at the age of 90. He regularly contributed articles to Bygone Kent, and shortly before he died he was planning another book.
In 1953 he married Joan, sister of his army friend, George Newson. She died in 1990, and in 2000, aged 76, he married Olive Annis. He will be much missed by Olive, his children James and Ruth, and his grandchildren, his many friends - and by the Lamorbey and Sidcup Local History Society.